How to improve your English

31 05 2010

From my last two blogs here and here it very much looked like I was blowing my own trumpet about India. But that was not my intention when I set out to create this blog. My intention being to help, I feel every visitor should get some valuable information from my blog. So here are a few pointers to help you improve your command over English language.

1. Read. As much as you can. Newspaper, Magazines, Books, Novels, Manuals, Guides, Blogs, Screenplays, Comics, Website Articles. Anything and everything which is printed or published online. Reading will help you in many ways unimaginable. Always carry some book with you so that you can read while travelling in a subway or bus and waiting for someone in a bank or cafe.

2. Movies. Watch it with English subtitles. If you find it difficult to follow the accent and language of native speakers. DVDs with English subtitles are easily available. Over a period of time you will be able to switch off the subtitles and follow the movie on your own. For downloaded movies the subtitles can be downloaded separately. There are sites available online from where you get can download subtitles in English for all the movies. You need to search for it in Google.

3. Music. Listen to songs. Search and download the lyrics of your favorite songs (same as subtitles above). And have a karaoke  sessions of your own.

4. Write. About what you feel. Maintain a diary if you can. Or write a blog. Writing is a very good exercise. If you set out to write regularly then words will come automatically to you. And if you are not sure of a particular phrase or word, then you can check it on Google for its meaning or synonym.  Use tools like Microsoft Word as it has utilities like spell check and grammar check to rectify your mistakes before you publish. And if you find it hard to think of a word while writing then use your electronic dictionary. This way you will not forget what you write and you will be less likely to make mistakes while writing.

5.  Hobby. Develop new hobby and read books or articles online to help you with the hobby as well as the language. Or join a community that interests your hobby so that you can discuss things or write articles to share you knowledge.

6. Make Pen Pals.  That will reinforce you to write. You can make pen pals with guys who share similar hobbies or like similar books and movies as you. So you will have a lot to discuss in English.

7. Sitcoms. Are more verbose as compared to movies. Sometimes movies often follow silent treatment and the dialog are less as compared to a sitcom. Also because of the plot the Sitcom can keep you glued and very much into the flow of learning English.

8.  Career Oriented Books. Many a times good books on a particular subject (Software Engineering, Instructional Design, Photography, Yoga, Cooking, Architecture, etc.) are published in English but not necessarily translated to Korean thus limiting your knowledge. So by reading your subjects in English you will be opening yourself to a vast ocean of resources.

9. Language Exchange. Something which is very common and widely accepted in Korea.

10. TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS exams. Enrolling yourself for any of this exams will make it mandatory for you to study. Make sure you study in a group and read books like Word Power Made Easy, 30 Days to Powerful Vocabulary to improve your vocabulary and grammar.

Well I am myself not a pro in English and have a serious handicap with grammar (I still do not know where to put commas) but I feel I can write or express myself better. So if you feel you are happy with my level of English Language then you can use these pointers for yourself or for your students / friends whosoever is looking at improving his skills at English. If you have problems with communicating in English but have followed this article , then my friend you are very much on your way to become fluent in English.


What blood type are you?

31 05 2010

Last weekend when I was hanging out with my office colleagues for drinks, and one of my colleague was asking me about my blood type.

She said: What is your blood type?
I said: O +ve. Why?
She said: You are very ‘friendly’.
I said: Well. Yes, I know that but what my blood type got to do with that?
She said: Your blood type says  that you are friendly.
I said: Ahh.. That is interesting. So what about other types.
She said: Guys with type B are considered as Playboys. Type AB are very practical. And Tye A are creative but shy.

So the next day I had to run this query on ‘Blood Type Personality’ to get some interesting results on Google. From what I read and understand guys with Blood Type B have a bad reputation. They are considered Playboys, Players, Stingy, Irresponsible etc. and as a word of caution, gals try to stay away from guys with blood group B.

There is also a romantic comedy movie in Korean with the title – My Boyfriend is Type B. (B형 남자친구) based on this Japanese theory of Blood Type Personality.

In Japan there are soft drinks based on blood type popular amongst girls and condoms based on blood type popular amongst guys. Click the image below to read more.

So here are the Blood Type Personalities in brief.

Blood Type A:
Positive Traits: Conservative, introverted, reserved, patient, punctual and inclined to be perfectionists.
Worst Traits: Obsessive, stubborn, self conscious and uptight.
Referred as ‘farmers’ in some descriptions, Type A’s are said to be considerate of others and loyal to a fault. They can also be secretive and reluctant to share their feelings. Apparently they don’t hold their liquor well, either.

While outwardly calm, they have such high standards (perfectionists) that they tend to be balls of nerves on the inside. Type A’s are the most artistic of the blood groups. They can be shy, are conscientious, trustworthy, and sensitive.

Blood Type B:

Best Traits: Animal-loving, creative, flexible, individualistic, optimistic and passionate.
Worst Traits: Forgetful, irresponsible and self-centered.
Referred to as ‘hunters’, Type B’s have very independent natures and tend not to be concerned about what other people think of them. Although often described as shallow and lazy, they can be quite passionate about the things they hold dear. Patience is not their strong suit either.

Type B men have acquired a very negative reputation in Korea and are not considered by many to be good husband material. Often described as ‘players’, they are perceived as being selfish and mercurial, quick to anger and not terribly reliable. That said, their bad boy image makes them very attractive to women, but not for the long term. (Type B women do not share in this bad rep, for some unexplained reason).

Goal oriented and strong minded, type B’s will start a task and continue it until completed, and completed well. Type B’s are the individualists of the blood group categories and find their own way in life.

Blood Type AB:
Best Traits: Cool, controlled, empathic, introverted and rational.
Worst Traits: Aloof, critical, indecisive and unforgiving.
Referred to as ‘humanists’, Type AB’s are said to be controlled more by their heads, than by their hearts. They are rational, good with money, but unpredictable. Although inclined to be distant, they prefer harmony and as such, work well with mediators. Some consider them two-faced, and therefore untrustworthy.

Type AB’s are the split personalities of the blood groups. They can be both outgoing and shy, confident and timid. While responsible, too much responsibility will cause a problem. They are trustworthy and like to help others.

Blood Type O:
Best Traits: Ambitious, athletic, robust and self-confident.
Worst Traits: Arrogant, insensitive, ruthless and vain.
Referred to as ‘warriors’, Type O’s are viewed as natural leaders and are often, also, natural athletes. They tend to be outgoing, expressive and passionate, but can also bore others to death with their obsessive drive for success coupled with their absolute convictions that they are winners. This certainty that they will always win explains why they aren’t afraid to take risks or gamble. They have a strong physical presence and are unlikely to ever be overlooked.

Type O’s are outgoing, and very social. They are initiators, although they don’t always finish what they start. Creative and popular, they love to be the center of attention and appear very self confident. (Thats me^^).

And here is the interesting part – compatibility chart:

  • A is most compatible with A and AB
  • B is most compatible with B and AB
  • AB is most compatible with AB, B, A and O
  • O is most compatible with O, and AB

You can read more about it over here. Source: sites like korea4expats, bellaonline, phlebotomist.

Koreans work hard, Indians work smart!

28 05 2010

After reading my post – Why Indians speak better English than Koreans – I got this interesting feedback from Brian (of Brian in Jeollanam-do fame).

He says “Just stopping by to say I enjoyed this post and look forward to more of your perspective as an Indian in Korea. I saw “Just Another Indian in Korea” and, pardon my ignorance, didn’t realize there were others blogging about it in English.

I’m curious if you have any experience in the English education business in Korea. I ask because I wonder if you could compare the intensity with which Koreans study—for purely domestic purposes—the language compared to what you experienced in India.

Well, to reply to your comment Brian frankly speaking I do not have any experience in the English education business in Korea. But I do interact with a lot of Koreans on a day to day basis. Also, the native speakers I bump into are mostly English Teachers and I do have a few exchange language friends here in Korea who teach me Korean in exchange for English. So my views are completely based on my day to day interactions with these people and my observations. Coming from a non native speaking country the demarcation is more evident when it comes to learning / speaking / applying English in your daily life in Korea as compared to India.

Agreed that the intensity of Indians to learn English as compared to Koreans is much much lower, because we Indians don’t have to.  English is very much a part of our education system from the time a kid starts attending school. Local languages are taught as language subjects much later when the kid is around 8-9 yrs old whereas other subjects are taught in English.  An Indian would study English with greater intensity for higher studies and immigration abroad, as he would be expected to clear his IELTS, TOEFL exams. On the contrary if he has to work / study in India he would not be expected to give any English exams, which is not the case in Korea. Koreans if they have to apply for a job in Samsung, LGE or any other Chaebol then he would be expected to clear his TOEIC. And I know this for a fact from the experience of my Korean colleagues who are finding it difficult to switch jobs in Korea. And when I say that an Indian would have to apply for a job in India it translates to jobs in various Fortune 500 Multinational companies in India like Accenture, AT&T, Vodafone, ABN Amro Bank, Fidelity, Pfizer, Siemens, Unilever, Glaxo, Novartis, Sanofi Aventis, Mckinsey, Ernest & Young, Delloit, LG, Samsung, Hyundai to name a few.

Other facts about India which I’d love to highlight is that India has a large number of call centers which is thriving purely on English Speaking Indians. Apart from Call Centers there are various BPOs and KPOs in India which offers Business and Knowledge Process Solutions to their Clients across the world. In my past, I have the experience of working for more than 5 yrs in the eLearning industry in India. I was employed with TATA Interactive Sytems which is the world’s leading developer of learning solutions. One of our job was to provide Content Solutions, Content Strategy and Instructional Design for Simulations, Enterprise Application Training, K-12 Education, Soft skill training, Sales training to various clients across Corporate, Education and Government segments. Apart from Singapore and some Middle East countries I don’t think so any other Asian country offers such diverse solutions like India, not even Philippines.

So my point is that if we can teach the world (subjects beyond English in English) then why not Koreans. The entire purpose of writing this and the previous blog was to plead the Republic of Korea to look at India for solutions beyond trade. Yes, we know that Korea has signed a MOU with India to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of both the nations. But we’d also like to request ROK to look at India for education solutions and to hire teachers from India to teach English too. As per the current scenario when Korea needs English Teachers they look at Native Speakers where as if they need Engineers they look at India. So with this blog I would like to bring it to your notice that India has much more to offer if  (you = any country) care to dig a bit deeper. We have an extremely talented pool of technical writers, instructional designers, content writers, copy writers, educational writers, usability and accessibility experts, creative writers, accent trainers and above all TEACHERS to be hand picked by ROK and other countries.

In the past few years India has seen an exponential rise of readers giving rise to new stream of writers in both fiction and non-fiction segment – Karan Bajaj, Chetan Bhagat, Siddharth Shangvhi, Rajashree, Kunal Basu adding to our gamut of talented, Man Booker, Pulitzer and other award winning writers like Aravind Adiga, Kiran Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Shobha De, R. K. Narayan, Manju Kapoor, Vikram Seth and many more. Also, the movies these days in India are more or less bilingual which is a strong indicator that given a few years Indians “on an average” would be at par with native speakers.

Jjajangmyeon with Nuna

25 05 2010

For my lunch I visit a small sandwich shop very close to my office where this lady makes nice toast with egg n pickles. The first time when I went to her shop she asked me few things in Korean, like where I am from, how long I have been here etc. As such I did not expect her to speak English so I started chatting with her in broken Korean.

I continued visiting her place everyday during lunch time and we started chatting in her broken English and my broken Korean about places, weather, my family, her family, Indian food, my marital status etc. We kinda developed a bond and I was liking it coz it gave me an opportunity to improvise on my Korean Speaking skills.

At times, she would introduce me to her other customer and they would talk to me in English. She felt sorry at times that she could talk to me in English and there was so much to talk about. But she did manage to tell me that she was very happy to see me.  I started calling her Nuna, which means elder sister in Korean. And she spoke to me like her younger brother. She would ask what I do on weekends and if I knew cooking. When am I planning to get married etc.

Finally one day she invited me for dinner. She asked if I like Jjajangmyeon and I said yes. She told me that we can go together. But I kind of bounced as I was too busy with work. The next day when I went to her shop as usual she said she waited for me long and was disappointed. So we went out for lunch and had Jjajangmyeon in a Chinese Siktang (Restaurant). And it was really yummy. Jjajangmyeon is Chinese noodles with black sauce. It is very famous in Korea and Koreans eat it with great appetite. And now I am a big fan of it too. I seriously love Jjajangmyeon.

So when I was about to pay the bill, Nuna did not allow me to. She said next time, next time. That was so very sweet of her. I mean I am just her customer not even her employee or colleague and she treats me for lunch with her own money. I was truly touched by her affection and hospitality. Truly for me Korea is home away from home. The people here are so warm and friendly that it gives me one more reason to fall in love with Korea. I LOVE KOREA.

Cheers to more Lunch with my Nuna 🙂

Jai Hind Korean Ishtyle..

19 05 2010

Desi Gal.. , originally uploaded by breeze-O.

The Buddhas Birthday Lantern Parade happens a week before Buddhas Birthday from Dongdaemun to Jogyesa Temple. The entire Jongno Street is lit up with lanterns and people are cheering on both the sides of the street. If you visit Korea around May make sure you don’t miss this event.

I reached Dongdaemun a bit early before the Lantern Parade could start where I got this good opportunity to take a few behind the scene pictures of the parade. There was this huge queue of floats waiting for the parade to begin and people taking pictures with the guys all decked up in their costumes for the event. In one such float I came across this beautiful lady wearing a Saree. I almost missed her in the first glance and had gone ahead, but with a fleeting glance of this girl in a Saree I had to walk back to the float. And make her say ‘Kimchi’ for my lenses.

Why Indians speak better English than Koreans

18 05 2010

These days Teaching English in South Korea is considered one of the hottest jobs as compared to other Asian countries like China, Japan etc.  The government is spending a lot of money in recruiting native speakers and making this nation very affluent in English. English is taught predominantly by native speakers. And most of the public as well as private institutions prefer English Teacher from native speaking countries like US, UK, Australia, New Zealand etc. Koreans spend a lot of money in learning English. But still you wont find many Koreans who could speak English fluently.

The other day I met this girl in a parade who had stayed in New Zealand for like 2 yrs for studying English but she was not very confident about her English Speaking skills. Trust me she spoke good English but she was not very fluent. I strongly feel that as compared to her (and other Koreans) we Indians speak better and fluent English that too, without staying in any native English Speaking country.

I meet Koreans who have spent years in countries like Australia, America etc.  yet they pause while speaking because they are forming sentences in their mind. It is very common in Korea to find people who have spent life abroad just to be surrounded in an English Speaking environment so that they get more exposure to the English speaking crowd and that helps them improve their command over English Language. But they still stammer in English.

I have also met Korean families where the kids with their mom live and study in a native English speaking country and the dad would work in Korea and send money to support the kids education abroad. All this only for the sake of English.

So the first question which comes to my mind is that why is it that these Koreans who after having so much of an exposure to the foreigners and after having traveled so much still struggle when it comes to speaking English where as we Indians with very less exposure to foreigners and with no native speaking teachers to teach us speak much better English than Koreans.

And the answer is obvious for any Indian who is staying in Korea. Media and Education. Both play a very important role in our English education and we will look at them one by one.

  • Mostly 70-80% of the schools and colleges in urban India and almost 50% of the schools in rural India teach subjects in English, except for languages. Which is not very common in Korea. Most of the Koreans I have met study their subjects in Korean and study English only as a language subject in schools and colleges.
  • In India mostly 70% of the nation reads the newspaper in English. And there are so many of them to chose from. You visit any random newspaper vendor in India and you would find that the count of English magazines and newspaper surpassing their local counterparts. Koreans also have newspaper in English but they are mostly targeted to the expat community. 99% of the Koreans would prefer to read newspaper and magazines in Korean. Only if the media stops or limits the printing of newspaper and magazines in Korean will they do some good for the people of their own country.
  • One thing I like about Indian Movie channels is that they display English movie with English subtitles. So it becomes easier for us to enjoy the movie and not get lost in the accent. Apart from that most of the Indian music channels as well as radio stations have VJ/RJ who host the shows in English. The youth in India is well fed on English media, where as in Korea you walk in to any cinema for watching English movies and you will find it with Korean Subtitles. Which I do not blame keeping in mind the current circumstances else people will stop watching English movies. And if at all the DJ/RJ will start hosting their shows in English then they will lose their fan following soon.
  • Now this is an extremely important step to do if the Korean government wants to help the upcoming generation with their usage of English. It should stop translating academic books as well as fiction in Korean. Walk into any bookstore in Korea and you will find books and books in Korean. Even the bestsellers like Harry Potter, Twilight etc are translated in Korean. In any normal Korean book shop only around 20-30% of the section is allocated to English books. Whereas in India if one walks into any bookstore like landmark or crossword, one will find books in English only. Bookshops in India cater to all kinds of readers from technical to academic to fiction to non-fiction to self-help books (but in English).

It is all about the exposure and the right exposure for that matter. No matter how many native speaking teachers you recruit. No matter how many countries you visit or work or stay. No matter how many private tuitions you do. No matter how many English songs you listen to. No matter how many foreign friends you hang out with. No matter how many English Movies or Sitcoms you watch (with Korean subtitles) you will improve you English only if you READ. Read as much as you can in English dedicatedly. Read books, read newspaper, read articles, read blogs, read magazines, read manuals, read anything and  everything you can put your hands on. The more you read in English the more it will stay with you in your mind and will come automatically to you when you are talking or writing.

Yes I do agree that watching English movies and sitcom,  having foreign friends and other things do help. But not as much as READING. Why do you think we Indians can speak better English than Korean? Because, we are forced to read. There are many schools in India where teaching happens in local language but in Colleges the subjects are taught only in English. So it is mandatory for us to read and write in English. The only way I improved my English was by joining a library during my vacation. I used to read and read a lot in English. And Korean as I see is a nation of very good readers. People in Korea love reading. So henceforth if you have to chose a book for reading make sure it is printed in English.

Most of the English Movie DVD’s available in the market come with English Subtitles for people with hearing disability. Knowing English but not understanding the accent and pronounciation can also be considered as a disability. So next time when you are watching movies, make sure that you watch it with English subtitles and not Korean Subtitles. These subtitles are like floats to help you swim. Once you can swim on your own then you will discover many new oceans to conquer in English.

On a side note, since Korea itself is not a native English speaking country it should look at the learning strategies adopted by other developing and non-native countries like India, Philippines, Malaysia (as mentioned by Joseph Dart) and incorporate their best practices in its education system, rather than just recruiting native speakers as teachers. Given an opportunity, any certified teacher for whom English is a second language would be in a better position to teach from his / her experience of learning English. And for native speakers TESOL or TEFL does a good job in teaching them the difficulties faced by non-natives while learning English or any other language. So if someone takes out time to get certified as a TESOL or TEFL certified teacher, it shows his / her commitment towards teaching English to non-native speakers. Having said that Korean Government should also give equal weightage to both native speakers as well as qualified/certified teachers from India and Philippines.

Thanks for your time.
Brijesh Bolar

Things to do… On arrival to Korea

13 05 2010

If you are coming from India then the first thing you need to do is that convert your Indian money to dollars. You cannot direct convert Rupee to Korean Won while in India. If you are carrying huge amount then you can carry travelers check which can be en-cashed in any of the banks out here.

The day you land in Korea you need to do the following things:

  1. Convert your dollars to Korean Won at the airport.
  2. Keep some coins with you to make calls from a public phone.
  3. Make sure someone is coming to receive you from your office.
  4. If no one is coming then  you can go to the bus terminal and take the bus to your destination. The executives at the bus terminal are very helpful. You get limousine and city buses to Seoul and other places in Korea. Avoid taking cab / taxi on all costs. They are very expensive.
  5. On reaching you can buy a T-Money card.  Go to any 7-11 store and say “Yogiyo, T-Money Cardu Chuseyo”. It will cost you around 3000 won ($3) and you then need to recharge it by 10,000 won so you can use it for your day to day transit through Subway lines and Buses. T Money card can also be used for paying Taxi Fares, making calls from a public phone and buying things from 7-11 shops. You can recharge you T-Money card at any Subway Line station or in a 7-11 shop.
  6. Make sure you apply for your Alien Card in the first week of your arriving to Korea. You will be able to open your bank account and procure a cell phone only if you have a registration card. For Alien Card Registration you’d require your office registration document – Mandatory and 2 passport size photographs.
  7. Next you can purchase an International Calling Card to help you make calls back home. International Calling cards are available in 7-11 shops. For India you need to ask that you need calling cards for Indo (India is referred to as Indo in Korea).
  8. Get a subway map from the tourist information center. It will be extremely helpful to you in the first few weeks in Korea.
  9. Make sure you get a copy of Lonely Planet Phrasebook or any other phrasebook with basic phrases to help you communicate in Korea. People don’t speak English here. So it would be wise to invest in one of these phrasebooks available easily in various bookshops in India. You can order it online from Landmark.
  10. If you are bringing your laptop from India then your 3-pin charger might not work. You’d need a 3-pin to 2-pin adapter for charging your laptop which is easily available in any electronic shop in Korea. If you visit a mall then it is available in the electronic section.
  11. Another thing which you could possibly look at investing in is a rice cooker. If you are planning to cook at home then it is a must. I am not talking about the pressure cooker from India, for cooking rice you would need an electronic rice cooker. And if you are a bachelor then you have to purchase one at all cost in Korea.